According to Legend: Creatures From Around the World
The imagination is a wonderful thing. It can take us on adventures and show us alternate, fantasy world. A crucial part to the development of our imaginations is myths and legends. Legendary creatures have been depicted in books, television, film and the stories surrounding these creatures come from the folklore of various cultures around the world.
I’m a writer, and folklore is my air—I need it and thrive off it because learning all these stories and variations of them from culture to culture makes my imagination blossom and inspires me to write and learn about more.
You must understand that folklore is a very general topic covering a vast array of material, so for this letter I want to focus solely on creatures and entities.
If you’ve ever seen the Pirates of the Caribbean series, you’ve probably seen this creature. The Kraken is a giant mythical sea monster, said to be nearly 1 mile long, from Scandinavian mythology. The Kraken attacks ships by wrapping its long tentacle arms up and around masts, pulling the ships and their crews to the depths of the sea.
The Baba Yaga is a Slavic mythological entity resembling an old, skinny witch who flies on a mortar. The Baba Yaga is known as a forest spirit, who, depending on who you ask, can either be helpful or harmful. Some say the Baba Yaga can offer guidance to those who seek her help respectfully, for those who respect nature and the spirits of the forest. While others say the creature can kidnap and potentially enslave those lost in the forest, a tale told to children to frighten them from wandering too far from home.
The name Chupacabra started circulating in Puerto Rico in the 1990s, when goats and chickens were turning up dead, being completely drained of their blood. The story spread through parts of Mexico and the United States, where unusual deaths of livestock also occurred. The Chupacabra, which translates to “goat eater,” is said to look like a coyote with mange, a horrible skin disease caused by microscopic mites burrowing into a mammal's fur. There are also accounts describing it as a gray, lizard-like creature with large eyes, fangs, and muscular hind legs allowing it to walk upright.
The Oni is a creature from Japanese mythology, with there being several different types. Essentially, they are ogres, orcs, or demons that take on a vague, human form. They stand roughly 9 feet tall and are often described as having red or blue skin, wild hair, and having two or more horns and tusks. They are sorcerers who possess immense strength; they also are known to bring disaster, spread diseases and punish the damned.
It is said that Oni are born when truly wicked humans die and end up in the many Buddhist hells. They transform into Oni and become servants to the ruler of the underworld, forever punishing sinners.
The Wendigo stems from Native American culture, long being known amongst the Algonquian Ojibwe, Eastern Cree, Saulteaux, Westmain Swampy Cree, Naskapi, and Innu peoples. Frequenting the forests of the Great Lakes Region of the United States and the central regions of Canada, the Wendigo is said to be a malevolent, cannibalistic creature associated with famine, starvation, and the cold.
Descriptions of the creature vary slightly, but generally it is said to have glowing eyes, long yellow fangs, claws, and a long tongue. Some are said to have yellowish skin, while some are covered in matted hair.
Wendigos are created whenever a human resorts to cannibalism, which occurred more often when Native Americans and settlers found themselves stranded during the winter without food for long periods of time. They forever wander the land, seeking food to fulfill their never-ending appetite until they die of starvation.
When the Polynesians arrived on the Hawaiian islands, they found roads, fish ponds, dams, and even temples already there. It is suggested that these were all created by the Menehune. According to legend, the Menehune are mythical creatures who are small in stature, and they each master a specific craft. It is said that they still live in the forests of the islands and they only come out at night to build masterpieces. If they do not finish their masterpiece by sunrise, they abandon it, leaving half-finished structures for humans to find.
Changelings are fairies who take the place of humans. According to Irish mythology, fairies can be good or evil. Changelings often steal children, or babies for several reasons: for the fairies to receive love as a human child would, for the stolen child to act as a servant to the fairies, or simply out of spite. Usually, changelings steal the most attractive children, as they desire their traits. However, in some cases, an older fairy may be swapped so it can live the rest of it’s life under the care of humans. It is said that if a human became ill, developed a strange appearance, or started acting differently, they are “fairy-struck,” and fairies were at work.
The Pontianak derives from Malay and Philippine mythology. This creature is known to be the spirit or life force of a woman who died during pregnancy. It is evil to the core and preys upon men. It roams around at night during a full moon and disguises itself as a beautiful woman. It lures away its victims and sucks their organs out.
Draugar come from Norse
mythology. They are essentially zombies who possess some supernatural powers. They can alter their size to grow to enormous heights, becoming giants. With their presence comes the stench of decay; they live in their own graves and are said to be able to enter people's dreams. In most cases, Draugar only attack those who have done them harm or wronged them when they were living.
Wow, I don’t know about you guys but my imagination is soaring after talking about all these creatures! I think about all the mythical entities we see in television series, videogames and movies today, and how they have been adapted to fit a specific storyline. (Right now I’m thinking about the white walkers from the Game of Thrones series, anyone else?)
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why is Atlas telling us about legendary creatures and all this other stuff. Well, similar to food and traditions being vital parts to a culture, so is its folklore. Creatures are only one part of it, but let’s be honest, if I were to talk about the folklore of various cultures in their entirety, I would have a whole book! (So look out for future letters regarding folklore from me).
That's it for now,